UKCEH's committment to Postgraduate Researchers

The status of UKCEH as a centre of scientific excellence is complemented by a prominent role in the training & education of Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs). PGRs benefit from diverse laboratory facilities, field sites & data centres to support their research. Over 100 UKCEH Supervisors work together in multi-skilled teams to offer a unique breadth of experience & knowledge to advise & assist PGRs throughout their training.

Postgraduate community

At present, 178 PGRs are undertaking their PhD research with UKCEH. The greatest number of PGRs are registered with the Universities of Edinburgh, Lancaster, Bangor & Reading.

UKCEH is an active partner in 51 different studentship funding agreements, including 5 UKRI Centres for Doctoral Training & 12 Doctoral Training Partnerships, the Graduate School for the Environment, Marie-Curie ITN, Leverhulme Trust & as a collaborator with over 17 CASE award partners. PGRs at UKCEH are exposed to a wide range of training & idea sharing from these connections.

What you can expect as a PGR at UKCEH

  • As a postgraduate researcher at UKCEH you will benefit from diverse laboratory facilities, field sites & data centres to support your research. UKCEH supervisors & staff offer a unique breadth of experience and knowledge to advise & assist you throughout your training in a multi-disciplinary environment.

  • UKCEH offers bespoke training for postgraduate researchers through early-career Skill Shares, Seminar Days & workshops including ‘Essential Skills for Research Excellence’, ‘Finishing Your PhD on Time’ & ‘Careers: What Next?’. All postgraduate researchers are able to request one-to-one support in completing a personal training needs analysis.  

  • PGRs at UKCEH are also eligible to attend a variety of specialised training courses developed for UKCEH staff & ecological & hydrological professionals.
  • In addition to your UKCEH supervisor, you will be supported by the Researcher Development Coordinator, Local Welfare Officers, Student Liaison Officers & your local Postgraduate Representatives. Together, they offer opportunities for you to reflect on your PhD, to receive wellbeing support (e.g. the annual PhD ‘MOT’) & to gain mentoring for your career development.

Masters projects & research placements 

If you are interested in ideas & supervision for a Masters Project or summer work experience during your degree, please browse the six Science Areas for details of current UKCEH research interests. Once you have found a group you are interested in joining, please contact the Science Group Leader (listed under each Science Area) outlining the reason for your interest, the nature of the project work you would like to undertake, suitable dates & how you would be funded.

Current PhD opportunities

Please browse the list below for details of current opportunities & contact the lead UKCEH supervisor with any queries. Full contact details are provided on project adverts or on the UKCEH staff webpages.


Graduate School for the Environment

The Graduate School for the Environment is a collaboration between UKCEH, the Lancaster Environment Centre & Rothamsted Research. PhD projects are available in Biological Science, Environmental Science & Geography. Opportunities are available to develop your own self-funded proposal, to apply for a funded position or to apply through a Doctoral Training Partnership.


INSECT DOCTORS Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN programme

INSECT DOCTORS is a European Joint Doctoral Programme (EJD) funded in the framework of the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN programme. The INSECT DOCTORS network will train promising young scientists to develop the knowledge, technical skills and tools to diagnose and manage disease problems in commercial insect production systems.

  • 2020 applications closed (closing date 10 Jan 2020).

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in April/May 2020:

Impact of multiple biotic and abiotic stressors on pathogenesis in mealworms and wax moths Supervisory team: Dr Helen Hesketh (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Alison Dunn (University of Leeds) & Assoc Prof Nicolai Vitt Meyling (University of Copenhagen). Full eligibility criteria & details of how to apply are given on the FindAPhDEURAXESS adverts.


Doctoral training partnerships


ACCE (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment)

ACCE's vision is to develop motivated, confident & multi-skilled PhD students, undertaking cutting-edge research & tackling environmental science questions of global significance. Studentships are offered between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York & UKCEH in a multi-disciplinary environment including biologists, mathematicians, analytical chemists & policy experts. See details of all ACCE projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening around November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

There are no ACCE projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020.

CENTA (Central England NERC Training Alliance)

CENTA research spans 6 universities (Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Warwick & The Open University) & research institutes (UKCEH & BGS). A critical mass of researchers in climate & environmental sustainability, organisms & ecosystems & the dynamic earth provide a range of training & facilities. Training is supported by end-users from industry to non-governmental organisations & government agencies. See details of all CENTA projects here

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening around November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Addressing the challenge of air pollution: Novel measurements of particulate matter and gaseous air pollutants in the UK and South Asia Supervisory team: Dr Chiara Di Marco (UKCEH Edinburgh), Dr Marsailidh Twigg (UKCEH Edinburgh), Dr Zongbo Shi (University of Birmingham) & Dr Eiko Nemitz (UKCEH Edinburgh).

Grazing and disturbance as management tools in coastal slacks: consequences for soil organic matter, biodiversity and functional resilience Supervisory team: Dr Aidan Keith (UKCEH Lancaster), Dr Jonathan Millett (Loughborough University), Dr Rob Griffiths (UKCEH Bangor). 

E4 (Edinburgh Earth, Ecology & Environment)

Edinburgh has one of the highest concentrations of NERC-remit research in the UK. The clustering of environmental research around Edinburgh means that E4 students are part of a vibrant community of researchers & professionals that extends to many opportunities in science, policy, charity & business activities. See full details of all E4 projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Unexpected carbon consequences of forests: effects on aquatic carbon fluxes and composition Supervisory team: Dr Amy Pickard (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof Kate Heal (University of Edinburgh), Don Monteith (UKCEH Lancaster) & Dr Peter Gilbert (Environmental Research Institute).

Measurements of real world pollutant emissions from London’s BT Tower Supervisory team: Dr Eiko Nemitz (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof Mathew Heal (University of Edinburgh), Dr Ben Langford (UKCEH Edinburgh). 

Dung beetles: alleviators or accelerators of climate change? The role of dung beetles in Nitrogen cycling and greenhouse gas emissions in tropical oil palm plantations with cattle grazing. Supervisory team: Dr Julia Drewer (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof Liz Baggs (University of Edinburgh) & Asst Prof Eleanor Slade (Nanyang Techonoligcal University, Singapore).

Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Vertical Farming Supervisory team: Dr Nicholas Cowan (UKCEH Edinburgh) & Prof David Reay (University of Edinburgh).

Assessing the environmental and economic costs and benefits of farmyard manure fertilisers treated via plasma reactor N2 fixation Supervisory team: Dr Ute Skiba (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof David Reay (University of Edinburgh) & Dr Nicholas Cowan (UKCEH Edinburgh).

Valuing Ecosystem Services produced by the Colombian Páramos Supervisory team: Prof Dominic Moran (University of Edinburgh) & Dr France Gerard (UKCEH Wallingford).

Thermal sensitivity of UK butterflies in space versus time Supervisory team: Dr Ally Phillimore (University of Edinburgh), Dr Nick Isaac (UKCEH Wallingford) & Dr Sinead Collins (University of Edinburgh).

Assessing the impact of environmental change on host responses to infection and disease Supervisory team: Dr Emma Cunningham (University of Edinburgh) & Dr Sarah Burthe (UKCEH Wallingford). 

ARIES (Advanced Research & Innovation in the Environmental Sciences)

ARIES DTP combines world-class research, innovation & impact from 5 universities (East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Plymouth & Royal Holloway), 9 major research institutes (incl. UKCEH, BAS, BGS & the Natural History Museum) & 39 collaborative partners from across the environmental sector. ARIES aims to train scientists who will become 21st Century leaders in the science & sustainable business of the natural environment. See details of all ARIES projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Patterns and process in population trends of UK herpetofauna CASE award with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Supervisory team: Dr Nick Isaac (UKCEH Wallingford), Prof Richard Griffiths (University of Kent), John Wilkinson (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation) & Angela Julian (Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK).

Envision (Developing next generation leaders in environmental science)

Envision brings together a powerful group of UK researchers with industry & NGO partners to provide a new generation of environmental scientists with the skills, knowledge & experience they need to take on the challenges of a changing world.  Led by Lancaster University, research falls into the 3 areas of environmental change, sustainable use of natural resources & environmental hazards & risk. See full details of all Envision projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

​​Floral Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) signalling in response to air pollution and climate change Supervisory team: Dr Felicity Hayes (UKCEH Bangor) & Dr Kirsti Ashworth (Lancaster University).

Urban nature-based solutions, are there scale-dependent thresholds?  Supervisory team: Prof Laurence Jones (UKCEH Bangor) & Dr Alison Cameron (Bangor University).

Persistent organic pollutant futures: making 21st century projections of POPs concentrations and risks in British soils Supervisory team: Dr Stephen Lofts (UKCEH Lancaster) & Prof Kevin Jones (Lancaster University).

Soil microbes to mitigate climate change  Supervisory team: Dr Jeanette Whitaker (UKCEH Lancaster) & Prof Nick Ostle (Lancaster University).

GW4+ (Great Western Four)

GW4+ identifies areas of complementary expertise across the universities of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff & Exeter to develop research communities at scale, to address major global & industrial challenges. The collaborative research & innovation of GW4+ recognises & builds on the industrial & research strengths of the South West, working across the natural sciences & encouraging collaborative projects between the universities, research institutes & industrial & public sector partners. See full details of all GW4+ projects here

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Near Real-Time Multiscale Hybrid Surface Water Flooding Risk Forecasting  Supervisory team: Dr Albert Chen (Department of Engineering, University of Exeter), Dr Steven Cole (UKCEH Wallingford), Prof Slobodan Djordjevic (Department of Engineering, University of Exeter) and Mr Robert Moore (UKCEH Wallingford).


Named after the ancient ocean that closed to bring together England and Scotland, IAPETUS is a partnership that joins the leading research universities of Durham, Glasgow, Heriot Watt, Newcastle, St Andrews & Stirling, together with UKCEH, BAS & BGS, in a united approach to doctoral research & training the next generation of leaders in the science of the natural environment. See details of all IAPETUS projects here

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start. 

​Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Enhancing the sustainability of perennial bioenergy crops using companion crops Supervisory team: Dr Rebecca Rowe (UKCEH Lancaster), Dr Julia Cooper (University of Nottingham) & Dr Aidan Keith (UKCEH Lancaster).

Plant adaptation to climate change learning from model Betula species Supervisory team: Dr Alan Gray (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof Alistair Jump (University of Stirling), Dr Stephen Cavers (UKCEH Edinburgh).

Effects of Invasive Non-Native Species within ecological networks and consequences for ecosystem function Supervisory team: Prof Helen Roy (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Daniel Chapman (University of Stirling), Dr Beth Purse (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Louise Barwell (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Kevin Hughes (Bristish Antarctic Survey). 

Using machine learning to understand species diversity in tropical forest Supervisory team: Dr Jill Thompson (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Marta Vallejo (Heriot-Watt University) & Dr Michael Lones (Heriot-Watt University).

Signals from the Soil in Tropical Forest Ecosystems Supervisory team: Dr Lindsay Banin (UKCEH Edinburgh), Prof Yit Arn Teh (Newcastle University) & Dr Daisy Dent (University of Stirling).

Evolution in action: what drives the generation of new mutations in the Harebell, (Campanula rotundifolia)?  Supervisory team: Dr Stephen Cavers (UKCEH Edinburgh), Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin (University of Stirling), Dr Julia Wilson (UKCEH Edinburgh) & Prof Alistair Jump (University of Stirling).

Oxford DTP in Environmental Research

The Oxford DTP in Environmental Research offers a world class, multidisciplinary training environment for the next generation of researchers working at the frontiers of Environmental Research. The Oxford DTP operates slightly differently, with two studentship routes. Some students are recruited direct to CASE or collaborative projects, while others are not admitted directly to project and apply to one of the three research streams (for students who wish to devise their own projects). See details of how to apply here.

  • 2020 applications open.

SCENARIO (Science of the Environment: Natural and Anthropogenic pRocesses, Impacts and Opportunities)

The scientific scope of SCENARIO is broad, spanning the physical, chemical and biological processes within the overarching theme of "environmental risk and sustainability" over a wide range of temporal & spatial scales. SCENARIO incorporates supervisory expertise spanning the science of atmosphere, oceans, ice, hydrology, soil, ecosystems & space weather. SCENARIO seeks to attract high-quality graduates from science, mathematics & engineering degrees. See details of all SCENARIO projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

​Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Understanding Acute Oak Decline using X-ray micro-tomography and leaf reflectance: linking reduced tree water transport capacity to changes in xylem and leaf cellular structure. Supervisory team: Dr France Gerard (UKCEH Wallingford), Dr Glyn Barrett (University of Reading), Dr Malte Storm (Diamond Light Source Ltd), Dr Karsten Schönrogge (UKCEH Wallingford). 

SSCP (Science & Solutions for a Changing Planet)

The SSCP DTP harnesses world leading expertise from Imperial College London & Core Partner Institutions to offer a unique multidisciplinary PhD training programme. SSCP’s key scientific challenge is to understand & quantify complex biological, physical & human systems, & the interactions between them, in sufficient detail to predict & manage future change. This knowledge is used to develop innovative technical, business & policy responses to environmental & societal challenges. See details of all SSCP projects here

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

​Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Understanding the role of phytochelatins in detoxifying toxic metal pollutants in invertebrate species Supervisory team: Dr Dave Spurgeon (UKCEH Wallingford) & Dr Jacob Bundy (Imperial College London).

Developing new UAV-based survey approaches for monitoring tree and soil health indices in SE Asian oil palm plantations Supervisory team: Dr Paul Scholefield (UKCEH Lancaster), Dr Robert Ewers (Imperial College London), Mr Justin Moat (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), Prof Niall McNamara (UKCEH Lancaster) & Prof Alan Blackburn (Lancaster University).

QUADRAT (Queen’s University Belfast & Aberdeen Doctoral Research & Training)

The University of Aberdeen & Queens University Belfast come together in the QUADRAT DTP to create opportunities in long-term and large-scale field data collection. QUADRAT is a point of contact for government, NGO & industry for policy development & applied conservation & management on a regional, national & international level, creating a unique training & research environment. See details of all QUADRAT projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed. Reopening in November/December 2020 for October 2021 start.

​There are no projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020.

Centres for doctoral training



The GW4 FRESH CDT draws on a critical mass of internationally recognised scientists, including empiricists, experimentalists, modellers, and theoreticians in the field of freshwater bioscience and sustainability across levels of organisation from genes to ecosystems, and from microcosm to continental scales. See details of all GW4 projects here.

  • 2020 applications now closed.

Projects advertised to start at UKCEH in Oct 2020:

Understanding the ecological role of organic matter (OM) in urban freshwaters Supervisory team: Dr Daniel Read (UKCEH Wallingford), Prof Richard Evershed (University of Bristol), Prof Penny Johnes (University of Bristol), John Bryden (Thames 21) & Dr Nathalie Gilbert (Thames 21).